SINGLE REVIEW: BENJAMIN BOOKER – “Witness”
“Witness” asks two questions I think every person in America needs to ask.
“Am I going to be a Witness?” and in today’s world, “Is that enough?”
When I first heard ‘Witness’, many images came to mind that related to the current state of America. I thought Benjamin Booker was speaking of Trump’s America, fueled by hate and fear and how it impacted the millions of black lives. It sounded like a call to action against the exhausting racism a Southern native like Booker would have to face daily.
It sounded like a riot, a protest sung in the most soulful refrain that takes you back to the era of original blues and rock and roll, with a hint of gospel tastefully thrown in, that you could almost smell moonshine.
But I was wrong.
In the lead up to the release of ‘Witness’, Benjamin Booker had penned an essay explaining the reasons why he wrote this song, and the context from which it emerged.
Turns out, it was a trip to Mexico. But it was a trip that allowed him to step away from the culture of racism and overall doom that haunted not just him, but America as a whole. He was escaping it, but what he offers listeners with Witness is a confronting look at racism, not an escape.
The special appearance of Mavis Staples’s sweet, ageless voice in the chorus “Am I going to be a witness…just going to be a witness?” spoke volumes of Booker’s state of mind. A civil rights activist and gospel singer on a New Orleans boy’s track, but in 2017. We don’t feel the sense of struggle, but wow do we feel the power of that question: “Am I going to be a witness?”
‘Witness’ is silently powerful and extremely addictive to listen to. The balance of gospel and soul that is Mavis Staples and the raw, garage-punk, rock and roll melodies of Benjamin Booker makes Witness a track that transcends time. And yes, you will find yourself singing the chorus over and over again without realising it!
For what it is worth, it is a solid and grounded piece of music. Benjamin Booker did not complicate this record in anyway, in fact he just sang what he felt and put it together in a way only he could have. Listen to it, you will love it, your parents will love it, your cat will love it.
It’s just great music.
To read Booker’s essay, visit http://www.npr.org/sections/allsongs/2017/03/09/519214472/songs-we-love-benjamin-booker-witness-feat-mavis-staples
Words by Asha Kurup.